Carolina: Cruising Past 70

Thursday, July 19, 2018

You Must Get Used to Change and Practice Flexibility When You’re on the Go


It has often been said that, if there’s anything constant in this world, it IS change! And may I add that, when you are on the go, like we travelers almost always are, change happens at an even faster rate.

Nothing illustrates this more than the embarrassingly funny incident I had to endure in Chicken, Alaska. We had only been RVing for several months. Having successfully driven across the Alaska Highway from Calgary, Alberta and happily spent a cool summer month in Alaska, we went back to the Lower 48 on a different route. It was through Chicken, Alaska and the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City in the Yukon before we dropped down to Glacier Highway in BC.  The road to Chicken, Alaska was all gravel and, although the town’s summertime population is thirty-two, at wintertime, it is only seven!

Town of Chicken, Alaska
I remember the trauma of taking a shower in this little town. I had enough loonies (Canadian coins) for maybe a five-minute hot shower at the RV campground. But I ended up having to rinse at the sink in a room with no heater!  I complained to my husband, “The instructions were not clear!” He told me I was supposed to put an additional loonie before each time segment ran out, not all at once at the beginning!  I found that some showers do not have outlets for blow dryers; some do not have mirrors; some only have hot water, and the way to mix hot and cold water was different every time; so with the way to pay. I learned that flexibility is a virtue one must cultivate because every few days we were in a new home!

Then I remember the folly of resisting local ways. During our 2009 three-week tour of Mexico, we parked our RV in Teotihuacan where the most visited pre-Hispanic ruins of the oldest civilization in North America are located, approximately 25 miles northeast from Mexico City. On a day trip to Ciudad de Mexico, we took the public bus. With a population of eighteen million, it is one of the most congested cities in the world. We loved our tour of Catedral Metropolitana, Templo Mayor, Plaza de la Constitucion, and Palacio Nacional and the shopping at Avenida Central. We ended our day with a visit of the only authentic castle in North America, Chapultepec Castle, which is now a Museum.

Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City, Mexico
It was already night time when we finished, so we decided to take the train to our bus station. With more people than capacity, however, we found out that men were being segregated from women in separate carriages to prevent chances of unwanted encounters in the sea of humanity. I was horrified. I didn’t want to separate from my husband so we hailed a taxi instead. In the ensuing confusion, Bill not only lost his cellphone but we also lost a lot of money and a lot of time in the taxi ride through the traffic-congested city. Good thing we made it to the last bus to Teotihuacan. I am an avid trip planner…but, not that time! I should have been prepared for going around the city even before we made the day trip.

Last year, I went to Australia to babysit my youngest grandson in Melbourne where my daughter and her husband had migrated. The cheapskate that I am, I opted for the lowest fares which had long layovers in Guangzhou, China.  I foolishly hoped I would get two chances of touring the second largest Chinese city (first is Shanghai). On the way to my tour of duty, the seven-hour layover wasn’t long enough to warrant a city tour. Travel time would already be four hours. I decided to try on the way back when my stop would be all of twelve hours. But that story would be for another time.

Baiyun International Airport
This time, let me tell you of the utter shock during those seven hours in the Baiyun International Airport of Guangzhou! I hunkered down to get lost in my social media world. Sadly, with my laptop charge down to zero, I spent most of my time finding out how I could power it up with the gadgets thrown into my computer bag by my loving husband. But, with a mechanical aptitude also near zero, I was ultimately unsuccessful. Luckily, I found a portable battery for my phone was also thrown in. Signs indicated free airport WiFi, but I could not get my phone to connect. A couple of millennials finally took pity and showed me how. With about half of my layover time already wasted, another shock came. Facebook is banned in China! I turned to surfing on the Net but the last shock floored me: every search pointed me to sites totally foreign, totally unfamiliar, totally Chinese!  My isolation was complete. I should have brought a book!

It is hard to make a near-seventy-year-old woman be more flexible. But I love to travel so I would have to keep on trying. There’s no giving up here. I finally realized that anything can be handled with better preparation, some prior knowledge, and a hefty dose of great attitude!